A Gift Of Stars

A Gift Of Stars - Book 1 Of The Nearer Realm Tales

She can uphold her duty to defend her uncle’s kingdom and stand with her husband, or she can protect her heart, but she can’t do both. Which will she choose?

Enjoy The Excerpts Below

Him:  Lord Sanders Maksiner Persungen knelt on the packed snow behind a whispering pine that was emitting a low shivering sound. It fell silent. Sanders adjusted his grip on his spear and raised his fist, and the hunting party stopped to take up positions behind boulders and yellow cedars.

A trail of three-day-old footprints faded in the snow. The soles had deep treads, not like the soft moccasins of the nomads. These footfalls held a crisscross pattern of studs across the ball of the foot and a diamond-shaped pattern on the heel, but only the finest cobblers in Rettkal used this mark.

A cold gust coiled around Sanders’s throat, snaking its way past his cloak and cooling the sweat between his shoulder blades.

An unsettling feeling twisted Sanders’s thoughts in a tight tangle. He swung his gaze left to right and up and down. Shadows stretched behind trees, shafts of sunlight caught fallen logs at unnatural angles, and globs of snow masked the shapes of boulders. Something was a little off about everything. His stomach tensed, shortening his breath and drawing his focus.
The old footprints distracted him. The greedy Rettkalese tax collector, Gusten Caers, had been around, looking for another bribe.

Caers had come too close to Sanders’s camp. Too close to exposing Sanders’s secret and ruining his life’s work.

A small herd of black-tailed elk grazed in a clearing thirty feet away—a gift from the Mother Goddess Orla.

Sanders rose and threw his spear, which arced in the sky, then impaled the bull elk in its hindquarters. Startled, the bull charged into the woods with the rest of the herd running beside it.

Sanders muttered a curse, then ran after the herd.

Guardsman Kiyen and huntsman Pacome chased after the injured elk. Kiyen drew his bow and loosed an arrow but missed the elk. Pacome, speedy like no other, raced ahead, spear poised to strike.

The elk crashed through the forest, dislodging the spear from its hindquarters. Sanders picked up his damaged spear and sprinted after his quarry. The elk slowed, limping, drawing shallower and harder breaths, then turned around, lowered its head, and charged at Pacome.

Pacome lunged to the side, but the elk gouged Pacome’s abdomen with its antlers. The elk raised his powerful neck, then slammed again into Pacome.
Sanders threw his spear, and it struck the elk in its chest.

The magnificent beast faced Sanders, staggered backwards, and then collapsed.

Sanders pointed at Kiyen. “Make sure it’s dead.”Pacome lay limp on the snow, clutching at his side, and his eyes held shock and sad acceptance.

Her: Calanthe adjusted her cloak, but a chill still settled deep in her bones. She worried it would never leave and feared she’d never feel the warmth of an Osmirian midday sun on her cheeks again.

“Missus?” a woman said.Missus? 

Missus was some fishmonger’s wife. Missus was the cobbler’s wife. Missus was a stranger you met on the street who dropped an item from the basket she carried and you called out to her to give it back.

Missus? Calanthe was an Osmirian princess, tenth in line to the throne, and the wife of the oldest son of an Altian duke.

Missus? A woman approached carrying Calanthe’s travel bag. Dark-brown hair tied back in a sloppy bun with a healthy rose spread across her cheeks and nose, she had a perpetual tired look, though she couldn’t be more than two or three years older than Calanthe. Beneath the fatigue, the woman was stunning.

“My title is Princess Calanthe. Aye?”

“Hiya. I’m Edda. I’ll unpack your bag in Lord Sanders’s room, and I’ll move Lord Sanders’s items to the dining room pegs."

Dining room pegs. Such poverty.

Calanthe inclined her head and followed Edda.“

Are you hungry? There’s a stew warmed up in the hearth. There’s one bowl in the house, and if you give me until tonight, I’ll make sure there’s a second bowl and cup. And utensils.” Edda spoke the common tongue of the Nearer Realms with a thick Verstagian accent with elongated o’s and r’s.

Edda entered by the back door, kicked her boots against the back step, and stepped into the bedroom, leaving a weak mud trail. “You look like you’re from Osmira, Missus.”